Teaching Your Dog Take It

Dogs have limited options if they want to carry something: they can hold things in their mouths or not at all. “Take It” is the cue for your dog to take something from your hand and hold it in his mouth. Over time, you can extend it to encourage your dog to pick up an object from the floor, too.


Teach your dog to take a favorite toy from your hand.

Choose the toy you’re going to train with carefully. It needs to be something that’s easy to carry and ideally something that your dog likes, but not to the point where he gets so excited that he can’t contain himself around it. Often the easiest toy to persuade your dog to take is one that you can play a game with immediately afterward; two obvious options are a squeaky soft toy or a rope tug toy. You can use the same cue whether your dog is taking something from you or picking it up from the floor, but it’s probably easiest to start by asking him to take something from your hand. It’s hard to teach this exercise using treats or a clicker, because both your hands and your dog’s mouth will be engaged. The object itself needs to be the incentive, so this will work best with dogs who like carrying things anyway. Practice your timing; as usual, you need to say the cue at the exact moment that your dog takes the toy.

  1. Pick up the object you want your dog to take and hold it in front of him. Make it interesting for him: if it’s a squeaky toy make it squeak; if it’s a rope tug toy, wave it around a little. Keep up an exciting
    commentary—”What’s this? Look at this!”—until he takes an interest.
  2. As he approaches it, hold it out and offer it to him. If he takes it in his mouth, repeat “Take It.” If he has a firm hold of it, praise him. If it’s a toy you play tug with, you could have a short game of tug with him—most dogs love this, so it’s a reward in itself.
  3. You can practice this exercise when you’re heading outside to play. Pause by his toy, or pick it up, and offer it to him, saying “Take It” as you’re headed for the door. If your dog reads it as a signal for a game with you, he’s more likely to pick it up enthusiastically.

To take and hold something in his mouth, and to trust you enough to accept
something from you.

“Take It” is a great building block for a number of tricks you can teach your dog.
It’s one of the first stages to a number of more complex exercises that will give
him a proper mental workout.

A few dogs are worried by picking things up on command—it’s natural for them to explore things with
their nose and mouth, but they balk at the idea of taking something when asked. (A study that looked at
various games played across a wide number of different breeds found that nervous dogs don’t always like
their mouths being occupied if they aren’t sure what’s going on—it seems to make them feel vulnerable.) If your dog appears concerned, take this exercise slowly, praising him warmly even if he holds the toy for only a second or two.


I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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